Senate committee approves bill addressing crime, sends to floor for discussion

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JEFFERSON CITY — The Senate Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, and Public Safety voted to approve a bill (SB1) to address violent crime in Missouri, sending it to the Senate floor for discussion. 

This comes after Governor Parson called a special session to address violent crime in Missouri. The bill aims to modify provisions related to public safety. 

The six provisions included in SB 1 would: 

  • Eliminate the residency requirement for St. Louis law enforcement so long as the officer lives within an hour of the city. It would also prohibit requiring any public safety employee for the city of St. Louis to be a resident of the city. 

  • Require the court to determine if a juvenile between the ages of 12 and 18 should be certified for trial as an adult for the offense of unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action.   

  • Allow certain statements to be admissible in court that would otherwise not be allowed under the current statute.  

  • Create the Pretrial Witness Protection Fund. 

  • Modify the offense of endangering the welfare of a child for a person who encourages a child to engage in any weapons offense. 

  • Increase the penalty for a person who knowingly sells or delivers any firearm to a child less than 18 years of age without the consent of the child’s parent or guardian.

If the bill passes, children between the ages of 12 and 18 may be tried in a court of general jurisdiction and prosecuted under general law for the offenses of unlawful use of weapons and armed criminal action. 

Senator Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff is the sponsor of the bill. He says the bill satisfies all of Parson's reasons for calling the special session. 

“We are having younger and younger people commit deadly offenses and for harm offenses with weapons," Libla said. "Our murder rates and our homicide rates are really up and this is not just a St. Louis or Kansas City problem. Crime all over the state, probably all over the country is really up, but we are here to worry about Missouri and our communities, which is why I think this issue is very timely."

Senator Brian Williams, D-Ferguson is also on the Transportation, Infrastructure, and Public Safety Committee. He voted against the bill Wednesday. 

"Clearly I am not in support of violent crime, I don't think that we should be enabling anyone to commit a crime, but I don't think that we should punish young people and put them in a position to go away for the rest of their lives if they do make a mistake," Williams said. 

Williams said he has a police reform bill that he said he hopes the governor amends and takes up in his call against violent crime. 

"I think it's important that we understand that not only public safety is important, but building the relationship between the police and community also is necessary," Williams said. "When we build that trust from this police reform bill, I believe that we can start solving a lot more crimes and then I think it also puts our state and region to be a safer place for everyone."

Columbia resident Kentrell Minton owns Royal Motors, and spends his time reaching out to local youth to get guns off the street.

He said as much as he wants to protect kids from violence, this bill is not the way to do it. 

“To put them into the penitentiary to me is not going to change anything. It will set them back," Minton said. "They deserved to be punished, but to a certain degree. I mean we have to give them a chance at life. We are a second chance kind of people and to do that — to me that's not giving them no hope to life at all to put them in a prison system."

Libla expects the bill to be further discussed and debated in the Senate on Thursday. The House anticipates discussing the bill on the House floor on Wednesday, August 12.